2020 South Side Questions: Should Steelers Bring In Someone To Contribute At ILB?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Should the Steelers bring in somebody to play inside linebacker or work with what they have?

I would imagine that this is going to continue to be a focal point of questions and concerns for the next couple of weeks, maybe even longer, though the trade deadline is now fast approaching. Basically, do the Steelers have enough in-house at inside linebacker to field a championship defense with Devin Bush done for the year?

Outside of the other starter, Vince Williams, none of the inside linebackers they employed behind Bush this year had ever played a snap on defense before. Robert Spillane now has a few dozen snaps under his belt, the vast majority coming on Sunday. His first tackle was on a Kareem Hunt screen on third and five. He made a valiant effort but couldn’t quite stop him short. He finished the game with six tackles in all.

The other inside linebackers are a safety in disguise and a player whom they haven’t even seen fit to dress despite the expanded active list. Ulysees Gilbert III was a standout special teams player in the seven games for which he was healthy as a rookie in 2019, but he was passed over this year in favor of a guy like James Pierre, who, to his credit, has played well in that phase.

Remember, of course, that bringing in anybody who would actually contribute, whether on the open market or via trade, would cost, and the Steelers don’t have a lot of wiggle room. So really, it comes down to how much you trust Spillane.

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